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Europe safety test wants fewer touchscreens in vehicles

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The European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) will require more physical controls and fewer touchscreens during its industry-respected safety tests, according to multiple media sources. 

“While Euro NCAP testing is voluntary, it is widely backed by several EU governments with companies like Tesla, Volvo, VW, and BMW using their five-star scores to boast about the safety of their vehicles to potential buyers,” a recent article from The Verge says

The standards are set to start in Jan. 2026. Automakers seeking five stars will be required to use a button, stalk, or dial to control critical tasks, such as direction indicators, hazard lights, aviation, honking a horn, window wipers, and SOS functions, according to Motortrend.

Many U.S. studies and media reports in recent years have criticized the use of touchscreens in vehicles claiming they are distracting and dangerous. Yet, the use of touchscreens in vehicles has remained unregulated. 

A Motortrend article questions if Euro NCAP’s standards will provoke actions in the U.S. market. 

“Changes required of automakers for the European auto market could translate to changes on U.S. market cars as well, at least from European automakers, or future U.S. regulations could follow with similar physical control requirements,” the article says. 

In 2023, Slate reported some OEMs were moving away from using touchscreens after receiving consumer complaints. 

“The touch screen pullback is the result of consumer backlash, not the enactment of overdue regulations or an awakening of corporate responsibility,” the Slate article says. “Many drivers want buttons, not screens, and they’ve given carmakers an earful about it.”

For nearly a decade, OEMs have moved to using touchscreen for vehicle controls with Tesla leading the charge, the article says. 

AAA Foundation issued a study which found infotainment systems involving touchscreen and voice commands were distracting drivers for more than 40 seconds. 

“When driving at 25 mph, a driver can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation— all while distracted from the important task of driving,” the AAA study says. “Programming navigation while driving was available in 12 of the 30 vehicle systems tested.” 

It said 23 of the 30 systems generated high or very high levels of demand from drivers. ‘

Slate reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a voluntary guidance in 2013. It recommends any infotainment task should take the driver’s eyes away from the roadway for less than two seconds. 

“But NHTSA’s guidance had no enforcement mechanism, and carmakers have violated it with impunity,” Slate said. 

However, some manufacturers are moving away from touchscreens with Porsche being a recent example, Slate says.

More than a year ago, Volkswagen board member, Thomas Schäfer, said on LinkedIn that the company was bringing back buttons because customers wanted it. 

Motortrend said NHTSA didn’t comment for the article but “pointed to its publicly proposed updates to its own five-star safety New Car Assessment Program, or NCAP, which includes ‘the potential addition of emerging vehicle technologies related to driver distraction. These updates are expected to be finalized soon.” 


Image courtesy of metamorworks/iStock

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